ou couldn’t miss the explosion of purple and magenta amid the sedate stone and marble interior of Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall. T-Mobile was, at least temporarily, making its mark on the New York icon.
The wireless carrier earlier this month had set up a pop-up event to promote the, but I didn’t really care about that. I was drawn by the promise of a 5G demo.
And in one tiny part of the hall, jammed next to a giant replica of an Amazon Echo smart speaker, was a random collection of devices and experiences primed for 5G. There was a drone that could tap into the network for real-time controls and data exchange. An exercise bike and headset promised a cowboy-themed virtual reality experience. A collection of wine bottles featured photos of T-Mobile executives like CEO John Legere as an example of augmented reality — point your smartphone at a bottle and Legere comes to life on the screen with a quip about how T-Mobile’s innovation is “truly intoxicating.”
Eager to get started, I asked when I could tap into that 5G network.
“Oh, there’s no 5G set up yet,” said a T-Mobile spokeswoman, explaining that these were “simulations.”
It was hard to hide my disappointment. But I shouldn’t have been surprised — that’s been the story of 5G hype over the last several years. There have been tons of promises and fancy demonstrations for what 5G might look like, but few concrete, real-world examples.
That’s changing, with Verizon launching its 5G-based home broadband service () and AT&T poised to launch a mobile 5G service this year. Around the world, carriers in Korea, Japan and China are set to make the big 5G leap over the next year.
The next-generation of cellular technology, 5G promises to change your life with a massive boost in speed and responsiveness. It’ll power applications like self-driving cars, telemedicine and a new universe of connected devices. You can expect to see 5G smartphones coming out in the first half of next year.
The bad news: Don’t expect your life to change quite yet. As with any new technology, 5G will experience some growing pains, and for many people, those promised speeds may not show up consistently — or at all. I talked to a number of experts and telecom industry executives to get a bead on what 5G will really look like in the early days.
Off to the 5G races
The US carriers began jockeying for the 5G pole position early — Verizonback in 2015. With advanced networks being the next big thing, each carrier is eager to bolster its reputation for service quality, which they hope will translate into consumers heading their way.
Sprint hasby early 2019. It’ll take a big step in that direction this year when it to six cities, including Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles, though Sprint customers won’t be able to access 5G until the service launches next year.
T-Mobile said it— including New York and Los Angeles — but likewise wouldn’t launch the service until 2019 because 5G phones aren’t ready.